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As it's well known if you've read my reviews, I'm a HUGE fan of XXX Maniak. Their splits sometimes disappoint, me, though. Fortunately, this was not the case with the Cracks of Doom split.
I'll start with Coffins. They're an interesting doom metal band, one of the stoner/Sabbath worship type, from Japan. I wouldn't have picked this as the match for XXX Maniak. Perhaps it was an attempt at a "Night and Day" approach, with opposites playing to enhance each side. It doesn't seem to have been particularly sucessful, the album just seems to speed up right away at a confusing moment.
As for the music... It's pretty standard fare as far as stoner doom goes, with the bluesy riffage and slow drumming. The production is a little weak, though, which robs Coffins of the necessary heaviness. The guitar is a little too thin, lacking the fat overdrive sound necessary, and the drums sound just a shade sterile. There's not much to say, as it's only two tracks. I don't often see stoner doom bands do splits, and the lack of development makes the split seem abrupt and inappropriate. At the very least, we answered that quandry.. no more stoner splits. Now, onto the XXX Maniak side.
The departure of old vocalist Sidote has caused an interesting shift in the attitude, atmosphere, and overall musicality of XXX Maniak. What seems to have previously been a band more for atmosphere or strange humor is replaced with a more serious grindcore band. I've never really seen a joke band get serious while maintaining their style, so this is new territory.. and I must say, XXX Maniak do it quite well.
The vocals are the most noticeable change. Sidote's typical gutturals and screeches are almost entirely gone. There is a good deal of experimentation in vocal styles. Some of the tracks seem to have taken a strange rapid thrash shout vaguely reminiscent of rapping. Other tracks, such as "Sweet Relief in the Mausoleum" and "Smoking Sumerian Debris" have a more harsh, evil sounding guttural than previous releases. The new vocals are a welcome change, as they sound truly demonic compared to the typical contrived guttural Sidote used to provide (I like his voice, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't sound quite like this new fellow). Also present are bizzare squeals, such as on "Sandbox Sniffer", and even a few anarcho punk shouts on "Stabilize Her." The vocal change adds a unique element, and is certain a welcome improvement.
The instrumentation is about the same: very fake, very metal distorted guitar and a very basic programmed drum kit. There is a slight improvement in production, perhaps in part due to the change in drumming style. Compared to the near constant assault of blasts in some XXX Maniak releases, the drumming is more legitimate, following the more conventional song structures. You'll hear plenty of blasts, but there are also D-Beats, slow breakdown drumming, and so on. As a result, the guitar riffs are more clear and impressive, and the songs play more like songs and less like blasts of chaos and rape.
Though the bands do not make sense together, they are both solid bands worth checking out, and this is a split you can't afford to miss. HIGHLY recommended.